A rambling novel that never quite decides what it wants to be.

FRUIT OF THE BAD SEED

Cera (Cry Wolf, Cry, 2009) offers a “memoir novel,” of the 1960s, which he presents as a decade of radical social change that still affects us in the modern age.

In 1961, 20-year-old Ron Caruso, not long out of college, gets a teaching job at a Long Island junior high, then another position later, teaching special education classes at a local high school. The overall premise of the book is that the loosening of sexual mores in the ’60s was just as significant as the rise of rebellion and protest. Thus Ron has adventures in the dark with his widowed landlady and supervisor at work, Martha Bouschard; has a quick fling with the aptly named student teacher Lorraine Tempest; and enjoys sexual gymnastics with night school students Geri Tourcott and Valerie Kasbarian, and so on. Finally, Ron meets Christina Pace, an 18-year-old high school student. Readers learn a bit about her past and circumstances early on (which Ron has yet to discover), and as the two get closer, the author gets across the sense that Ron is falling in love with her, and not just having another fling. Sure enough, much turmoil ensues as Ron tries to reconcile his conscience and protect his job as Christina heads into her senior year at Nessaponic High School. The book’s overall tone is hard to pin down. The title is ominous and the subtitle—“Is man redeemable?”—even more so. But although it’s thematically important that Ron succumbs to his lusts, a spirit of wish fulfillment—not to mention gratuitous erotica—still hovers over it all. A “memoir novel” is also a problematic concept, as readers can’t be sure how much of the book is drawn from real life. The story of Ron and Christina, however, does finally provide a strong narrative arc, for which readers will be grateful.

A rambling novel that never quite decides what it wants to be.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9848250-1-1

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Libra Books, Incorporated

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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